Often times the message of empowerment we are being sold is accompanied by the idea that we are better off on our own. It encourages us to cut off relationships without thinking twice. Making unconditional love an almost impossible concept for us to grasp.
My marriage got off on the wrong foot in regards to our family. We exchanged lots of words, lots of misunderstandings, lots of emotion, lots of fear, lots & lots & lots of stuff.
I could recap everything for you from my perspective & you would most likely understand why we decided to step away, take a break, cut them off. Heck, we were even counseled to do so at the time by our pastor!
But, what I want to share with you, is how much the decisions we made cost.
We were hurt. They were hurt. We didn’t know each other well enough to know each other’s hearts, personalities, or intentions. We didn’t know ourselves well enough to be able to live loved, even though we were all, so so loved.
So my Hubby & I decided to go it alone. We viewed it as putting a stop to the cycle of hurt we were in. We removed ourselves from those relationships which had repeatedly caused pain to all involved.
A year & a half passed without speaking when we found ourselves at a mutual friend’s wedding. It was at this event that something in my heart shifted & I began to wonder: was reconnection possible?
Reconnection was indeed possible. Which was good news. But I won’t sugar coat it, the path to reconnection was long & sometimes painful.
In some ways, we are still on the path. The journey back from that hurtful place has been much longer than we ever expected. When we made the decision to step away, we hadn’t thought about how or even if we would be able to recover. We were too busy feeling.
You see, being newlyweds is tough.
There really is no way around it. You can set yourself up for success, sure. & I’m guessing if you’re engaged for a decade then maybe it’s not as difficult. But for us, we knew each other less than a year before tying the knot. We didn’t know each other, ourselves, or our families well at all.
Something we didn’t realize at the time was that when marrying two families, each of you becomes an ambassador for your family inside of your marriage & home. There were plenty of times where my hubby would mention to me that something my family did was rude or that he perceived as inconsiderate. We would talk it out, I would explain their lingo, their language, & their hearts to him. This wasn’t about me taking my family’s side or even defending them really, it was about teaching him who they were.
We both understand now that he didn’t know how to do this well when we got married. Unfortunately, it took us a good decade to figure that out & put it into words.
When I thought something his family did was rude or maybe even inconsiderate, he didn’t defend them or explain. He assumed I was correct. While I stood there hoping I was wrong with my interpretation, I was told over & over again that I was correct.
I’m not blaming him. & I’m not saying I don’t have any responsibility here.
When I look back at pictures & comments on social media that pop up in my memories, knowing them how I do now, my heart breaks over & over again. How did I not see the effort they were putting forth?
I can’t go back, but I can move forward. Today, I have a better understanding of being a sister-in-law & a mother. Today, I realize that melding two families takes time & work.
I had expected to have the kind of relationships with them instantaneously that take years to develop. I had assumed that I could have these deep, understanding, relationships overnight without putting in the work. This allowed rejection to present itself every time my expectations weren’t met.
Then life happened…
Sometimes your life will feel like a sinking boat with more holes in it than you can physically plug. You will feel overwhelmed beyond words. & the relationships in your life that are more work than you wish they were, will seem dispensible in those moments. You will see your life as a little easier without these relationships. The thought of not having another confrontation or misunderstanding will make you feel like you can breathe again. & if you follow through & step away, you will feel better.
& honestly? You will.
You will feel lighter & this will help you justify your decision. But after you breathe for a while. After you finally get some holes plugged in your boat, you will have a small ache for the relationships you sacrificed during your season of desperation. You will wish you hadn’t left. & you may even start thinking about what things would be like if you had stayed. If you had fought for your relationship instead of fighting against each other. You will wonder & that wondering will hurt.
Friends, that pain may never subside if the people you left aren’t able to get past the hurt you’ve caused them. The people you left will have every right to not “give it another try”. Because you walked away when things got tough. You will have to accept that outcome if that’s what they decide.
For those who are gracious enough to try & reconnect, heal, & rebuild, remember you still must be patient. You will need to be understanding. It will be difficult. But it will be worth it. Regaining trust is something that can only be accomplished through consistent caring & time. Now comes the hard work.
I’ve learned some key lessons through the cutting off & rebuilding of relationships. When trying to rebuild after separation the following may be found helpful:
- Do your best, with the best intentions.
- Don’t get offended when people don’t see your heart.
- Ask questions – Don’t make assumptions
- Talk everything out – that uncomfortable feeling when doing this is the price you pay for connection [totally worth it!]
- Be less interested in who’s right or wrong, instead – desire to understand
- Let go of expectations – let your relationship be what it is – let it evolve naturally
- Focus on the good
- Be sensitive to the pain you caused in leaving
- Keep showing up – even when you feel shame for leaving or undeserving of grace
- Kindness is the best language
When I found this quote on Pinterest my heart leaped with joy:
Don’t swim across oceans for people who won’t jump puddles for you.
No, do it. Do cross oceans for people. Love people, all people. No conditions attached, no wondering whether or not they are worthy. Cross oceans. Climb mountains. Life & love isn’t about what you gain, it’s about what you give.
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t just give up on people because you don’t think they are willing to jump puddles for you.
Often times, others believe they’re jumping oceans for you & you just can’t see that past your misunderstandings or pain.
We have found so much happiness in the giving of love, rather than the demanding of it.
There is freedom from fear in this new found way of living & loving. Our love no longer is based on whether someone deserves it or whether we feel loved. We love because we choose to love. Because of this freedom & mindset we have seen our relationships heal & gradually grow.
Some would dispute that the cutting off of toxic people is necessary & healthy. I will not disagree. There are many situations where it is in the best interest of both parties for the relationship to desist.
What I am proposing is this: Don’t skip the necessary steps before giving your relationship the ax.
- How much effort have I put into understanding?
- Is it the same amount of effort as I’ve put into trying to be understood?
- Am I looking for reasons to leave instead of looking for ways to connect?
I remember saying before, I could talk until I’m blue in the face & they would still never understand or want to! I was desperate to be validated.
What we should try to accomplish is listening to others without feeling threatened or attacked. Realizing that everyone is allowed an opinion & perspective. Again I say, it’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about understanding one another.
We should have stayed. We should have listened more. We should have loved better.
We survived it. But it was hard & the damage we caused is still visible. Because the damage doesn’t just go away once you decide to make amends or to reconcile. Expecting it to will only cause more hurt.
We must take responsibility for our part. Whether we have every great reason in the book as to why we did what we did, we let it go. We choose relationship over our need to be right.
In our situation, we all wanted the same thing. A happy & present family. We are all flawed & sometimes try so hard we hurt ourselves. BUT we keep trying, keep loving, keep talking/clarifying & more importantly we keep listening.
Moving past our separation was the first part. Doing it better now as we move forward is where the hardest work is found. But it’s also where all the rewards are! Every time I hold a niece or nephew, have a heart to heart or see my kids being loved on, I’m reminded that all the pain & humility involved in our healing process is worth it.
We took the long way, believing whole-heartedly it was the only way. So I’m here letting you know that I understand that feeling. It feels like you have no other choice.
You do. You can choose to stay.
What relationships do you have that could use more effort?
Have you been trying so hard to be heard that you haven’t taken the time to listen?
Is it possible you & your loved ones want the same thing & are just going about it differently?
Honest conversations are a great way to figure this out. Listening to understand & choosing to not being offended.
Who might you reach out to today?
There was a time when I looked at my husband & said “I just don’t see how we could ever have a relationship with them again. I don’t see how this could ever be fixed.” It felt hopeless. Our pain was louder than truth.
I’m grateful I was wrong all those years ago. I’m glad that I didn’t have to see healing, for it to come to fruition. I’m grateful that God worked it all out despite me getting in the way. So don’t lose hope friends!
Even when it seems all is lost or words have been said that just hurt too much to recover from. Rest. Let God heal your heart. Ask Him to teach you & to guide you. He will. It won’t be overnight. But, He doesn’t give up on us. It’s been my experience that even when we throw in the towel, He’s gently following behind us picking it back up, waiting for when we’re ready to give it another try.
Rest. Then try again.
Maybe you’re contemplating cutting off toxic people in your life, I would encourage you to put the knife down. Sometimes the people we view as toxic, are just loving us the best way they can through their own pain. There is a difference. So let’s take the time to figure that out. Slow down & take a few more steps before making a choice that will take years to fully recover from if you ever do.
Life is messy. Family is messy. Relationships are messy.
My mess honors your mess as we keep moving forward together.